Co-op's Christmas boost for families: retailer to top up Healthy Start vouchers by £1

21 December 2020

Leading community retailer, Co-op, has announced that from today, Monday 21 December, it will top up the value of the Government’s Healthy Start vouchers by an additional £1, as part of its work as a founding member of Marcus Rashford MBE’s Child Poverty Task Force, which aims to ensure that all children have access to healthy and nutritious food.

The move means that customers wishing to redeem a voucher in any Co-op store in England, Wales or Northern Ireland* will be able to exchange it for items up to the value of £4.10, instead of £3.10. Healthy Start vouchers can be used to buy vital food and essentials such as milk, fresh, frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables, fresh, dried and tinned pulses and first-stage infant formula.

The announcement of Co-op’s Healthy Start boost follows news last month that the Government has agreed to raise the base value of the vouchers to £4.25 from April 2021. The increase comes as a result of ardent campaigning by the Child Food Poverty Task Force which has also been successful in getting the Government to make free school meals available to every child whose family is on universal credit and to provide meals throughout school holidays.

Jo Whitfield, CEO, Co-op Food, said: “Co-op is committed to ensuring that everyone, including children have access to the nutritious food they need in order to thrive. Food poverty has risen at an alarming rate this year and sadly, this is impacting the health of the communities we serve, which is why we felt it was so important to add value to the current Healthy Start scheme.

“It is our sincere hope that this additional £1 will encourage more people to use the scheme, and we welcome the Government’s plans to boost voucher values in 2021. Alongside our counterparts in the Child Food Poverty Task Force we are serious about prompting meaningful change as eating a healthy balanced diet is a critical part of a young person’s development.”

Henry Dimbleby, independent lead, National Food Strategy, said: “The huge strain on family budgets resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic has made tackling rising child food poverty a matter of national urgency. That’s why one of our key recommendations in the National Food Strategy Part 1 was for the Government to increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers so that young children from low-income households can have access to the nutritious foods they need. We are delighted that this call has been met, by Government who will increase the value of the voucher from next April, and by retailers such as Co-op who will be boosting the scheme to support their customers directly. This will have a rapid and significant impact on the diets and health of our youngest and most vulnerable children at a most critical time.” Alongside its work on the Child Food Poverty Task Force, Co-op has played a key role this year in battling issues of food poverty exacerbated by the Covid pandemic.

In May, Marcus Rashford starred in the retailer’s advertising campaign which was aimed at driving donations to food redistribution charity, FareShare. It resulted in the funding of an additional 4million meals for vulnerable people.

And as the largest corporate sponsor of academy schools in England through the Co-op Academies Trust, Co-op has also taken a leading stance on the issue of free school meals, seeing first-hand the adverse effects that lack of food can have on pupils.

When Co-op Academy Trust schools were closed due to Covid19, the retailer continued to fund and provide free schools meal vouchers for all qualifying pupils, including during the Easter and summer school holidays, making the commitment significantly ahead of the Government announcing a similar move for other state schools.

ENDS • More details on the Government’s Healthy Start Voucher scheme, which aims to improve the health of low-income pregnant women and families on benefits and tax credits, can be found here:

• *Co-op’s additional £1 can only be applied to vouchers being redeemed in England, Wales and NI. Scotland has a different scheme called Best Start Grants.

• A BBC documentary “Marcus Rashford: Feeding Britain’s Children” will air on BBC1 at 7pm tonight, Monday 21 December. For those in need or for those wanting to help, please visit #ENDCHILDFOODPOVERTY